A couple ink drawings I made. The first one is the Heiroglyphic Monad, which I was considering as a tattoo. I think it looks kind of cool, even if you don’t know what it is, and the fact that it has meaning in this crazy alchemetic symbol-logic appeals to my love of the esoteric. The second one is just made up.
I feel pretty ambivalent about the Vancouver 2010 mascots:
Hey wait, that’s not it! That’s just what came up first when I did a google image search for ‘vancouver olympics mascot’. Silly me. Here they are:
At first I felt like they succeeded at creating a design that was just fine thank you, something I can easily ignore because it’s just sort of cute and nothingy and fades into the background of lame bullshit that is constantly in our faces. At least it wasn’t a totally offensive boondoggle like the London 2012 logo, which really is just awful and hard to look at. With the precedent of the fibreglass Spirit Bears that plagued Vancouver for years, my hopes were minimal to begin with, and were met satisfactorily.
My next thought was that I’m not so big on the whole co-opting native symbols to promote an ubercorporate sporting event thing. I agree with Only, it’s distasteful. The designers had a tough job, though, satisfying the goals of both being marketable to a diverse global consumership, and also appeasing the Canadian anxiety about our shared identity (or lack thereof) as an immigrant nation, with our own unique baggage of colonial slash genocidal shenanigans to live down. So that’s a lot of pressure, and I think the results are basically passable. And hey, the kids love ’em, so that’s a big win.
I really think they should have just gone with the marmot though. Marmots are cool. When I was looking for a job a few years ago, browsing a government job database I found a posting for employment as a marmot watcher. You see, Vancouver Island’s golden marmot is endangered, there was only about 200 left in the wild, and they were being predated by bald eagles, which were also endangered, meaning you couldn’t shoot the eagles. So the solution they devised was to hire someone to camp out with the marmots for the summer to scare away the eagles. And I thought that would be a pretty good summer job. You know, just hanging out with the marmots. I don’t really have qualifications or experience in that field (a literal field), and I can’t remember what the listed qualifications were, but if one of them was “must think marmots are cool” then I would have been a shoo-in, because I think marmots are totally cool. Also, last July bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list, so they better watch their backs, is all I’m saying.
That’s what Stalin said, anyway. I’m paraphrasing of course.
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but you catch the most flies with a whole bunch of dead people all piled up on top of one another. Henry Kissinger came out with that bon mot while putting pepper on his baby-seal steak, during a strategy session with Dick Cheney, who smirked and thought it was quite clever indeed.
Went to see Busdriver on Saturday night. Totally great show, but unfortunately it seems like he’s kind of a jerk. I went to buy some merch and he was there looking tired and grumpy. After picking out a CD, I noticed he was reading Confederacy of Dunces, which I’d just finished reading a couple weeks ago. So I was like, “Hey I just read that book a couple weeks ago, it’s awesome huh?” and he was like, “that’s twelve bucks.” (The CD, not the book.) I was a little put off, but whatever, his show was super energetic with a nice diverse set list and massive electro backup.
He was opening for CocoRosie, but I didn’t stay to see them. I read on Pitchfork that they were arrested the next day, probably for bringing some Vancouver souvenirs back across the border.
The first opener was pretty rad though, a French beat-box guy named Tez. Here’s a youtube video, for your viewing pleasure. Note that he’s not using any instrumentation, it’s all mic.
Apologies for the lack of updates lately. More delicious content coming soon, I promise!
I always do my laundry on Sunday morning. Outside of work, it’s one of the few true regularities in my routine. It’s not that I look forward to it exactly, but I do like having my whole wardrobe clean and readily at hand. There are two laundromats within a block of my house, one of them is run by an old, deaf recovering alcoholic. He’s a nice guy, but he moves very slowly and it’s a bit difficult making yourself understood and so I always feel bad about asking for change, because he’s usually outside smoking and it really seems like a lot of effort for him to parse the request and fish through his pockets for the correct denominations. So I usually just go to the other one. It’s cleaner and brighter, and it’s serviced by two friendly asian teenagers who spend all day instant-messaging.
Today, however, when I returned from the coffee shop to put my clothes in the dryer, a homeless man was stripping down his layers and stuffing them in a washer about fifteen feet away from me. The tang of rancid body odour and stale cigarettes, comingled with an undeniably fecal effluvium, was truly overpowering. It was inescapable, and I actually literally threw up a little bit in my mouth. Tossing my clothes in the nearest dryer as quickly as I could, gagging and choking uncontrollably, eyes watering, I ran out gasping. It was so pungent and foul that I’m afraid it’s permanently tainted my olfactory sense.
Now, I’ve been to the Computer Science Club at the University of Waterloo, so I’m no stranger to offensive-smelling humans. I’ve been around gamers. (A friend of mine used to work in a game store — Warhammer, D&D, Magic:The Gathering and all that — and he told me once his least favorite part of the job was having to pull the particularly unwashed roleplayers aside and give them the talk about hygiene.) But Jesus, this was in an entirely different realm altogether. If apartheid had a smell, this would be it. That’s the only way I can decribe it: it smelt like racist oppression; its pungency was positively hegemonic, and deeply unjust.
And that, friends, the story of the worst thing I ever smelled, thanks for reading. :(
I think I’ve mentioned before how much I like Heather Havrilesky. She’s one of those writers with such an inherently funny, relaxed voice, she could make pocket lint sound interesting. She could write about data warehousing applications and it would be like taking a shower with an angel. I’ve been reading her TV column in Salon for years, even though I don’t have a TV and hardly ever see the shows she writes about. Her blog posts fill me with envy at their casual brilliance and wit.
My job involves writing about data warehousing applications, which mostly means I have to think up a lot of synonyms for “clicking” (eg. pressing, selecting, choosing, activating, and so on.) It can be kind of deadly, so one thing I do to amuse myself is whenever I’m writing a section where I have to describe logging in or creating a user or whatever, the generic username I create is “Bob Dobbs” (or “bdobbs”), the Church of the Subgenius’ messiah of slack. It’s my little inside joke; I’ve been doing it for years. Once I noticed another technical writer using “John Zorn” (“jzorn”), so I guess I’m not the only one.
I know it’s a trick; it’s not really casual brilliance. Heather’s, I mean. No doubt she works super hard to write as well as she does, and I’ve tried to pay attention. I recently looked up a couple of her old posts about the writing process:
Use your critics for good, not evil. Some say you should kill your inner critics, but I suspect you have tens of thousands of critics in your head, many of whom are the authors of that “amazing insightful and amusing shit” of which you speak. Kill the critics and you mute your own voice. Instead, herd those critics into a bar and get them drunk. Send some of them to the grocery store and see what they have to say. Tie some up and make them eat nothing but black olives and watch nothing but movies starring Mel Gibson for an entire week. Make some of the others read your bike trip notes. What do they think about your experience? Do they think you’re a shriveled-up little poser? Their thoughts should be included in your bike trip journal, or else your voice will be far too self-censoring and blandly positive to be remotely interesting. If half of you hates you, you’d better let that half have a voice, too, or you’ll wind up with a very small, weak, fake-sounding voice in your writing, with the implied, muffled, angry voices hidden just out of sight, but not disguised enough that the reader can’t see them. Readers enjoy writers who admit to every side of themselves, who can see around things. Readers dislike feeling that a writer has blind spots and defensive stances.
This other one is what I was originally looking for. It’s quite long and mostly aimed at someone who wants to be a professional freelance writer, but it also has a lot of great general advice on what makes for interesting writing:
5. Nurture an irrational overconfidence in yourself and your ideas. OK, so you don’t want to just be a capable writer, you want to be a brilliant writer. In my opinion, writing talent is one part mimicry, one part bluster, and one part original perspective. Capable, less-talented writers only have the mimicry part mastered. They mimic – I don’t mean that they directly copy other writers, although some do. I mean that capable writers write by digesting volumes of decent writing and then attempting to form sentences similar to the sentences they’ve read. This is part of what any writer does, mind you, but it’s the only thing on board for the capable, not-incredibly-talented writer.
Now, the vast majority of writers, ranging from capable to good, have both the mimicry and the bluster down pat. In other words, most writers are just overconfident hacks who know how to mimic and know how to silence that internal voice of doubt when it comes up. They choose to believe that they’re good at what they do and that they have something to say, something to share with the world. They build their skills by writing a lot and reading a lot, and they build their confidence by telling themselves that they’re just as good at writing as anyone else in the world. Some of these writers, for example, like to talk about the fact that Dave Eggers is overrated. That’s one of their favorite subjects. Dave Eggers makes them feel very confident in themselves. They try not to compare themselves to Jonathan Franzen, on the other hand.
The thing is, Dave Eggers may or may not be overrated, but he definitely has the three elements of a brilliant writer: 1) mimicry 2) bluster, and 3) an original perspective. Maybe Eggers’ books have included lazy chapters that ramble and go nowhere, but when he’s on, like he is in the chapters of his novel/memoir that deal with his parents’ death, it’s quite clear that he has talent as a writer. He’s a capable writer, first of all, which means he’s a capable mimic. He’s also got loads of confidence, which is crucial. And finally, he has an original perspective. He’s full of weird ideas, he has an odd take on things, he’s very sensitive but very defensive – all elements that happen to add up to really solid, entertaining, original writing.
The Max Headroom Pirating Incident occurred on Sunday November 22, 1987 and is an example of broadcast signal intrusion.
The first occurrence of the signal hijack occurred during WGN’s 9:00 News. During Bears Highlights in the Sports report the signal was interrupted by a video of swaying black and white lines and a person wearing a Max Headroom mask. There was no audio. The hijack was stopped after only 20 seconds when WGN switched transmission from the Sears Tower to the John Hancock Center. The incident left sports reporter Dan Roan flustered.
Later that night around 11:15pm during a broadcast of the Doctor Who episode Horror of Fang Rock on WTTW, the signal was hijacked by the same person. It was the same video that was broadcast during the WGN hijack, but this time there was audio. The person in the Max Headroom mask interrupted the broadcast, saying “He’s a freaky nerd” before laughing and stating “This guy’s better than Chuck Swirsky!”. The person continued to utter strange phrases including a Coke advertising slogan (Max Headroom was a Coke spokesperson at the time), humming the theme song to Clutch Cargo (pausing midway to say “I stole CBS”), before finally undressing below the waist and was spanked by an unknown woman with a flyswatter before the masked person cut off his transmission. It was over in about 90 seconds. The pirate was never caught. WTTW, which maintains its transmitter atop the Sears Tower, found that its engineers were unable to stop the hijacker because at the time there were no engineers on duty at the Sears Tower. Also, the station’s master control center was unable to contact its transmitting equipment remotely to switch the STL (Studio To Transmitter Link), unlike their counterparts at WGN-TV, who were able to thwart the intruder by switching their John Hancock Center transmitter STL remotely within seconds.
WTTW and WGN join HBO as victims of broadcast signal intrusion. There has not been an incident of this kind since. The incident was reported on CBS Evening News.